On Monday afternoon , we were on our way to the gym when we got stuck in a traffic jam . This never happens except sometimes during office rush hour and it took me by surprise until I realized that we were near the high school and that it was the last day of school . Students had just finished their least exam and were streaming out looking forward to 2 – 1/2 months of summer vacation . Never have I seen so many happy faces ! The ones who were walking home had smiles on their faces and were visibly relaxed . Those who were driving home were cheering and flashing the V-sign .
For a moment , I felt a twinge of jealousy as I remembered the way it used to be in my own time fifty years ago. There was of course the relief at being done with the exams but even more there was the feeling of freedom ,of having more than two whole months of glorious nothingness stretching ahead of you. Mornings when you could just lie in bed without Mom rousting you out . Days when you could do as you pleased without having to worry about homework or tests . All too soon that would pass as boredom would set in and finally , secretly , you would actually be looking forward to the start of the new school year. But all that would be in the future ; on the last day of school , the only thought in our heads was … FREEDOM !!
The end of school and the start of summer vacation is in students’ minds well before it actually happens. Almost two months earlier , some students have begun the countdown. One student told me in early May , that there were 22 more days of school . Another told me that the Memorial Day weekend was like a ” taste” of summer vacation !
I asked one student , a tenth grader, what he planned to do after school was let out for the summer. ” I ‘m going to sleep until 11 o’clock “, was the reply. ” Man I can hardly wait !”
Then he turned gloomy. ” At least that’s what I’m going to do until Grandma comes to stay with us . She won’t let me sleep late . And then this summer I’m going to be looking for a summer job. My birthday is at the end of June and I’m going to fill out job application forms and start making the rounds of the nearby stores and supermarkets. Then , I’ve got to take driving lessons and appear for my driving test. Doesn’t look like I’ll have much fun this summer”.
” Well, it should be great to learn how to drive and get around on your own without having to depend on others for rides”., I tried to console him .
But he was lost in his own thoughts and continued as if he hadn’t heard, ” My mom has promised me my sister’s car once I get my license . She’ll get my sister a new one . But it is going to be scary driving on the highway. Sometimes I think about the future and I worry about getting a job , about finding an apartment and getting married and having kids… It was much more fun last year . Sometimes I wish was a ninth grader again . Then I could really enjoy myself without worrying about the future…”
Ah , these growing pains . These thoughts may seem comical but they are heartfelt. Which one of us has not experienced them ? I tried to cheer him up , pointing out that these things were all in the distant future and that he didn’t have to worry about them immediately , that everyone goes through these passages of life and does just fine . I think I succeeded because , by the time he left , he was deciding what he would do with his first paycheck ( buy another video game , of course ) and what he would do immediately after he got his license.
Isn’t the resilience of youth amazing ?